The blow that landed at the back of my head caught me by surprise. I had turned away from Umar, and besides I didn’t think that he would hit me… I didn’t expect it at all. When I turned back to accost him, another punch landed fully on my face breaking my nose so painfully that a bright light invaded my vision. I can swear that I heard a crunch and I saw a bright splash of blood spurt out from my nose as though in slow motion. For a while, I was lost in an upside down world, so I shook my head gently in order to clear it and I literally saw stars. I wasn’t too sure as to what I had done that was so wrong, so I opened my mouth to ask him, that was when the next punch landed, smack in the centre of my mouth, mashing my lips against my teeth.
I started to cry then, soft silent sobs with bitter tears running down my face and mixing with the blood. I saw him smile gleefully and so I asked him, “Umar? What’s going on?” Even as I asked, I saw him pull back his fist for another hit so I dodged it causing him to howl in fury and kick me in my shins. I gasped in pain and slipped down to my knees. “GET UP!!!” Umar roared in anger pulling me roughly to my feet and trapping me between the wall. He slapped me again and my head rocked backward hitting the wall hard and I could only see a bright light for a moment or two. “DID YOU REALLY THINK THAT YOU WOULD GET AWAY WITH THAT!!!! HOW SILLY!” At this point his voice begun to sound like it was coming from a distance and there was a ringing in my ears, my face felt like it was on someone else’s body. I don’t know what came over me, I just started screaming,; I screamed and I screamed and it seemed the more I screamed the angrier he became because Umar went into some kind of frenzy, beating me and shouting and kicking me as hard as he possibly could.Soon, however, I could scream no more, and my breath was coming out in hitched sobs. The edges of my vision begun to dim out and my head was whirling. By this time, Umar had stopped for a breather and was massaging his shoulder muscles while asking, “Why do you make me hit you! If you would just behave yourself, we would never be in this situation…”
His voice began to get dimmer and dimmer as another voice rang loudly in my ears, “WHAT DID YOU DO? WHY IS HE HITTING YOU?”I jumped a little at the sound of this voice, and I looked around, turning my head slowly and gently in order to see who was asking that question. Even as I was turning my head I knew that I had heard the voice in my head and that this voice, which sounded vaguely like my grandmother’s, was asking me questions that I would never ask myself.“Umar,” I croaked, “honey! Why?”Umar started as though I had struck him. “Are you asking me why? You are really asking me WHY?” he slapped me at this point and my already weakened body slid to the ground, I was shaking and tired, but not Umar! No! Umar was like a man possessed. He kept shouting at me, he ranted and he raved, and then he acted like he was going to hit me, causing me to cower into the wall as though I could pass through it. As he continued to rant, I started to cough. Deep boisterous sounds that rattled my whole body and put me in even more pain.
“You better be quiet! If you are not quiet I will…” Blood spurted out of my nose and my mouth and I continued to cough out blood.Tayo baby, how did you get to this stage? I heard a roaring sound in my ears and that drowned out all other sounds, but my new friend in my head persisted in asking, How did it get so bad? How can the man that you love beat you this badly? You do realize that f you try to tell anyone this they will call you a liar?
This beating is unrealistic! It’s almost like he tried to kill you! Tayo baby…I can’t remember anything else after this point, except that I seemed to fall into a quiet darkness. Now I think about it, that darkness was a relief. It meant that I wouldn’t have to face Umar’s beating and insults, it also meant that I wouldn’t be in pain anymore. I gladly let myself slip into this blessed and much needed darkness.
I guess Tayo did not see the punch coming. I mean, how could she? After all she had turned away from me. I had planned to hit her, but I’m sure I wouldn’t have hit her so hard if she had not tried to walk away from me. I mean, I was still talking. So I lashed out a little harder than I had originally intended. When the blow landed, she staggered a little and turned around to face me with this look of utter surprise on her face. I was ready to leave off hitting her until I saw her lips move like she was about to question me, stunned by her audacity , I punched her again, this time full on in the face. As soon as I did that I regretted it, because her nose broke. How would I explain away a broken nose? I was just about to start apologizing when I noticed that she was fixing to say something. I did not have the words to tell how mad I was, so I hit her across the face again, targeting her mouth just to get the message across. I felt her teeth against my knuckles , grazing the skin of my knuckles, causing me to bleed a little, I saw blood rush out of a cut on her lips, and I saw her stagger.
All these observations were made in a very abstract manner as the submissive look on her face was beginning to excite me. she looked as though she realized that she had been very stupid. As though she knew that stupidity came with a price and that price had to be paid. In fact, she looked like the Tayo I was trying to cultivate. The quiet humble woman who would be the pride of any man, but would be exclusively mine.
It had been a long time since I had been chanced to remind Tayo who was in charge in this house. My wife had been on her best behaviour recently. She had done everything perfectly, there had been no cause to correct her and I was beginning to feel like a useless husband. I mean if there was nothing to correct, then she did not need me anymore. I know that it is not possible for such an imperfect person to become perfect all at once. So I decided to set up a small test to see if she had really become as perfect as she appeared. Boy, did it pay off!It was a simple test really. I can’t believe that … well actually I can believe it, after all Tayo is a stupid little thing.
That is why she needs my guidance and correction every once in a while. I pulled my hand back for another punch and struck her. Or at least I tried to strike her, I ended up hitting thin air. In my rage I struck her in the shins.I came back to myself a moment later when I heard her ask me what she had done wrong. The daft lady didn’t know what she had done wrong! I was flabbergasted! Of all the gall! I turned to look at her and discovered that she was on the floor. On her knees, yet not humbled. That thought flashed through my head and it shamed me. Was I so powerless that my wife no longer respected me? Had I lost so much of my masculinity that she felt she could question any of my acts? What was going on here. I was filled with so many different emotions, fear, shame and rage. Rage is good, focus on the rage, I told myself. “GET UP!” Even as I was shouting out the instruction, I was pulling her roughly to her feet and slamming her against the wall, when she was up against the wall, I struck her across her face sharply. I asked her if she had thought I would let her go free. At this point she begun to shriek, a high wordless wail that put me into a frenzy. I beat her thoroughly, throwing in some kicks for good measure. When she stopped screaming, she again had the temerity to ask why I was still hitting her. I realized then that beating her up was not enough to humble her, I had to remind her how worthless she was I had to let her know that she was lucky to be with her. So I started by asking her why she always made me ht her when she knew there was nothing I loved more than a quiet night in, right in the middle of my diatribe, the bitch began to cough! “SHUT UP!”
I roared, slapping her once more, by this time she was already on her knees once more and after the slap, she started to cough up blood. I paused with my hand poised for another slap. I waited for the blood to stop, but she kept on coughing up amazing amounts of blood. She slid to the ground in the fatal position and coughed twice. All was still and I got scared, if she died from my beating there would be no way to explain it.
I had beaten her up the way thieves would have beaten up a victim. Thieves! That gave me an idea. I ran upstairs, washed my face and hands and changed back into the clothes I wore to work that morning and went back downstairs to put her into the car.
THREE YEARS BEFORE
My heart skipped an actual beat, then it slowed down for a second or two, then it started racing so fast I could barely catch a breath. The reason for the odd behaviour of my heart was standing, like a vision, right in front of me. He was the African version of Adonis, the Greek god. He was uncommonly tall, like six feet five inches, with a well-toned body and fantastic abs. I could see his abs because he had taken off his shirt in order to fix the vehicle he was hunkered over. If his body was beautiful, it was nothing compared to the face of this creature. His eyes were shaped like small almonds and their pupils were a deep brown, his nose was straight and pointed, his lips were slim and sensual and his skin was an even caramel hue.He stood up and stretched out and I marvelled at the way his muscles rippled in unison with all his stretching movements. Amina nudged me awake, “I’m glad you approve,” she said sarcastically, “although I’m not sure if approve isn’t an understatement. Heh! Heh!”“Very funny Mina”, I said rolling my eyes toward the sky.“Umar! Umar! I’m home!” Amina was positively shrieking at the top of her voice as she ran toward her elder brother. He jumped a little at the sound of her voice, turned around with a slight look of surprise on his face and then, when it finally dawned on him what was happening, he broke into a smile that did the impossible: made him even more perfect than he previously was. He swept his little sister into his arms and laughed joyously, “So how is our little degree holder doing?”“I’m fine! I’m fine!” came the laughing reply, “Oya put me down! Haba! People will think I am the elder child here. I came in to open the gate seeing as how my horn is bad, but I didn’t think you would be home”.“Oh? I’m on leave oh! I was supposed to hang out with Yaro and the other boys, but this car…” he kicked the wheel of the car in a burst of pure anger. I noticed a shadow of fear cross Mina’s face, but it was gone so quickly that I was not sure if it was ever there. Then she said with a smile, “Haba Umar! Geskiya, it’s not such a big deal. I mean I can see Mama’s car in the driveway, and even if she is going out, you can use mine now I’m home.” He smiled and said, “Minnie babe, but you are a life saver, geskiya, a real life saver!”“Whatever boy!”, even though I could see that she was blushing. I had watched this exchange between brother and sister intently, well, okay I had watched the brother intently because I was hoping that he would raise his eyes away from his sister long enough to notice me, but I was fortunate and unfortunate. Fortunate because his steady gaze never once left his tiny sister’s face so I could drink in his delicious looks to my satisfaction, unfortunate because the fact that he took no notice of me made me feel a little awkward and insecure. I began to fidget and wish I hadn’t come home with Mina.
Just at that moment I heard Mina say again, “Come meet my friend Tayo from school. Mum said she could rent the boys quarters during our service year.”She was pointing in my direction as she made this declaration and his gaze followed her finger. When he saw me he started, and then he smiled that fabulous smile of his, he strolled toward me and stuck out his hand, “I’m guessing you are the famous Tayo, right? Minnie mouse can’t stop talking about you, apparently you are Minnie’s role model. You know she is always saying, ‘Tayo this’ and “Tayo that’. We were beginning to wonder how she would survive after school.
Apparently she and my mom worked it out.”“H… hi … I guess”, I gave my greeting laughingly because he had somehow managed to put me at ease. Umar laughed with me and then stuck his hand out again, “it seems I have put you at a disadvantage. I know who you are but you don’t know who I am.” He smiled again, “Well, I…”“You’re Umar Tijani, Mina’s beloved elder brother, about whom I am sure I know every intimate detail, seeing as how she cannot shut her mouth up about how fabulous you are. And speaking of role models, I thought you were hers.” I pulled a wry face and Umar and Mina burst into delighted gales of laughter. “Well!”, Amina exclaimed, “You guys seem to have saved me the trouble of an introduction and you seem to be getting along. Phew!”
... To be continued........
By Onyi Bi
For the rest of the story, check out http://onyibispeaks.blogspot.com/